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Officials closely watching Accountability Act

Published 6:04am Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley announced on Wednesday that he planned to add an executive amendment to the controversial Alabama Accountability Act that would call for a two-year delay on the implementation of the tax credit and scholarship portions of the legislation.
While some educators are relieved that there will be an extra amount of time before the legislation takes affect, some local education officials think extending the timeframe is not enough.
“The only way this legislation would affect us is if we have a failing school in our system and, as the criteria is, I don’t think we will have a failing school at that time,” Franklin County Schools Superintendent Gary Williams said.
“However, if we were to have a failing school, this legislation could affect us greatly. Any child that attended that school would be able to receive a tax credit in order to attend a different school of their choice, including a private school.
“Every student we lose in our system costs us money because we are allotted so much money per student from the state.
“To lose even more money at a time when we are already struggling financially would be very hard on our system.
“Hopefully if they decide to extend the Accountability Act for two years, it will give the legislators time to realize that this isn’t a good piece of legislation and they will just repeal it altogether.”
Bentley said the reason for the extension was to give the Education Trust Fund time to repay the $423 million that is owed to the Education Rainy Day Fund by the end of fiscal year 2015 and to give schools more time to put improvement plans into place and provide a better education to their students before the legislation goes into effect.
“If the Legislature accepts my executive amendment, we can help schools improve while also helping ensure the state meets its financial obligations,” Bentley said. “I believe this is the most fiscally-responsible approach.
“I have always been a strong supporter of giving schools the flexibility they need to improve. Moving forward, my ultimate goal is to have zero failing schools.
“The flexibility provided by the Alabama Accountability Act will help failing schools improve and help non-failing schools get even better. That’s why this legislation is so important. My executive amendment will preserve that flexibility while also helping ensure greater fiscal responsibility.”
Members of the Alabama Senate Democratic Caucus, however, said the answer to the Alabama Accountability Act was to repeal it completely instead of delaying it for two years.
“It is clear that this is a bad bill, or the governor would not be trying to delay implementation of the Accountability Act until after the 2014 elections,” Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said.
“If it is fiscally irresponsible for the bill to take effect now, which the governor claims, then it will still be fiscally irresponsible when it goes into effect in 2015.”

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